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Flash Movie Review: Manufactured Landscapes

A TRAINED EYE IS NOT necessary to see the beauty in things. Walking down the street of a coastal town your eye catches a glimpse of the ocean between two dilapidated buildings. You came up to the space just as the sun slipped out from behind a cloud, sending a blanket of diamond confetti across the water’s surface. Down by the fisheries where the smell of fish is thick in the air, you see the skeleton of an eaten fish that some animal must have scavenged away from the dock as a fishing boat was unloading their catch. The way the skeleton was left on the ground minus its head, it looks like someone was trying to comb the unruly grass blades. So you see there are opportunities to find something special in the most ordinary of things. I have mentioned before that on vacation I tend to be a drive by shooter; that is, someone who can be driving along and spot something interesting that I want to photograph. If there is no traffic around I will stop the car in the middle of the road, roll down my window and snap a picture then drive away.     HAVING GROWN UP IN THE city I am particularly fond of state and national parks. Seeing expansive landscapes, with very little trace of human interference, grounds me to the earth so to speak. The area where I live is flat, so viewing mountain ranges and canyons are exciting for me. You should see me at a park with my camera; I am shooting picture after picture of sights multiple times. I can shoot the same scene a few times but each one I make a subtle change like zooming in or focusing on an object off center. One of my dreams when I retire is to spend time every year visiting a national park until I have seen them all. Based on what I saw in this film festival winning documentary, I hope the parks will still be pristine by the time I can go see them. Maybe I will have to adjust my focus.     CANADIAN PHOTOGRAPHER EDWARD BURTYNSKY has spent part of his life visiting different areas of the world where people have made an impact on their surroundings. Someone’s trash could be someone else’s treasure. Directed by Jennifer Baichwal (Long Time Running, Watermark) I found this film an amazing smorgasbord of visual actions; where out of the most mundane and blemished areas things were turned into beautiful art. Being a photographer I wondered if I was biased in my assessment, but if the visuals were standing alone I could possible see it. However with the narration and seeing what society was creating, I felt there was a definite message being broadcast in this story. Not that anything is being drummed into the viewer’s head, but one could certainly see what society’s actions were doing to the planet. On the flip side it was fascinating to see how our actions have an effect on the people who either live nearby or far away. Without giving too much away I have to tell you I was enthralled with the ship scenes. This was a thought provoking, visual treat for me.

 

3 1/4 stars — DVD

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: Harry Benson: Shoot First

SOME ancient cultures thought cameras were evil devices that stole people’s souls. At least that is what I saw in several films. Truthfully that is not too far off; cameras do not actually rob an individual’s soul but they do capture a moment in the person’s life. Now I have to tell you I am biased about this subject since photography was my minor in college. Ever since I received my 1st camera when I was in elementary school, I have used my cameras to document events and occasions. Imagine being able to see 4 generations of a family in one photograph; the history of that family being handed down generation to generation is a powerful moment for me. I was part of the last group to visit a remote area of Alaska that was being closed off to humans for the damage they had caused the area. My camera never stopped as I shot as many photos as possible.   SADLY I am concerned a whole generation of people will miss out on the power of photographs. These days a majority of pictures posted on social media sites show food, in poor lighting I might add. When did this practice take on such importance? A recent survey discovered 2 out of 3 millennial choose recipes specifically to share their food photos on their social media sites. I just do not get it. Whenever a friend or relative returns from a vacation I am the first one who wants to see their photographs. In fact, I have been part of a small group of friends for years that get together every three months to share our latest photographs; it has been a way to stay in touch and experience new places without the physical demands of traveling. And when we all react in a similar way to one of our photographs we know that photo captured a memorable moment in time.   HARRY Benson may not have been considered a good student in school but he certainly had a way of taking the perfect photograph. Many of us including myself may have never heard of photographer Harry Benson but all of us are familiar with his photographs. This documentary for me was sheer joy since I love photography. The amount of iconic photos this man has shot was amazing. Imagine what it must have been like to have been part of so much history; some of the people he has had close contact with have been The Beatles, Muhammad Ali, Joe Namath, Robert Kennedy, Michael Jackson and Greta Garbo. I have to tell you the amount of photographs shown throughout this movie was staggering. Being able to hear the behind the scenes stories to these photos added an extra thrill for me. Written and directed by Justin Bare (Coked Up, Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s) and Matthew Miele (Crazy about Tiffany’s, Everything’s Jake), I found the flow to this film easy to follow. There was nothing deeply expressed except when the story brushed by the ethical aspects of a few photos. I would have appreciated more conversation about this subject. For those of you who may not remember when cameras and film were used to take a photograph you might not enjoy this movie as much. I, however, felt like I was taking a walking tour through history.

 

3 ¼ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Finding Vivian Maier

The day was a dull grey with roaming packs of spewing dark clouds threatening the landscape. I was determined to make the hike since it was the only day I would be in the area. Trekking along the marked trail, I was grateful I wore long pants since the plants with their lush soft edges had a real bite underneath their green leaves. Whenever I was lucky to feel a breeze filter into the dense forest, it was always filled with a dampness that my skin soaked up. The reason I was doing this was because I had read there was an ideal vantage point where I would be able to see the two stepped waterfall in its entirety. If there was going to be rain I was hoping it would wait until I could take a few photographs. As I reached a sharp turn to the left I felt I was walking onto a stage. The dense foliage had split apart like a heavy, green velvet curtain and a single slash of bright sunlight tore a sliver in the sky. Laid out before me was not only the waterfall but appearing like a ghost was a rainbow forming through the mist of water crashing down on the lower rocks. It was such a beautiful site that surprised me more than I imagined. Watching this gem of a documentary gave me the same sense of surprised wonder. Seeking out old photographs for a project, John Maloof was high bidder for an old trunk filled with film negatives. It turned out all of the frames were shot by a Vivian Maier. Though an internet search of her produced nothing, John realized he found something special. This film festival winner was a double surprise for me. First, there were her photographs which were shown throughout the film. Having minored in photography back in college I was not only fascinated with her style, but with the incredible depth in her shots. Her photos had their own personality that seemed to come alive no matter the subject. Secondly, the story about Vivian’s life, which was mildly non-descript, was unreal to the point where I almost found it hard to believe she was the creator of such incredible work. On a personal note, I got an extra charge out of this movie because I had been to some of the same places as Vivian. If you do not have an appreciation for photography, you may not get as excited about this film as I did. However, there still was an amazing story that would still surprise you.

 

3 1/2 stars

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